Vittoria Colonna's <i>Plaint of the Marchesa DI Pescara On the Passion of Christ</i>

in Who Is Mary?

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print August 2009 | ISBN: 9780226113982
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226113975 | DOI:
Vittoria Colonna's Plaint of the Marchesa DI Pescara On the Passion of Christ

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A meditation on Christ's Passion, Vittoria Colonna's Plaint or prose lament was composed between 1539 and 1542, and probably originally as a letter to Ochino since there are first-person addresses in the manuscript copy. The Fra' was Colonna's friend and spiritual mentor until, accused of heresy, he fled to Geneva in 1542. The precise circumstances in which the work was written are unknown, but it has been suggested that Colonna may have been inspired by the drawing of the Pietà, given to her by Michelangelo, around the same date. The Plaint was published first in Venice in 1556, together with a further prose meditation by Colonna on the Virgin Mary, the Oration on the Ave Maria. (The edition used for the present translation is the Aldine edition of 1557.) In the Oration, Colonna uses the Hail Mary for a line-by-line discussion of her own relationship with the Virgin Mary, stressing the Virgin's integral role with that of her son in the Redemption, and her role as mediatrix. Colonna's Plaint is a highly personal meditation (“I see the sweet mother,” “For me,” “I believe”), and is her response to the Pietà, an inner vision she has of the Virgin Mary seated below the cross, with the dead Christ lying in her arms, a scene either imagined or an image actually before her. The language is direct, highly wrought, and poetic. The Plaint is modeled on the ancient tradition of the Improperia, Christ's reproaches spoken from the cross, part of the service for Good Friday: “O my people, what have I done to thee? Or wherein have I aggrieved thee? Answer me.

Keywords: Vittoria Colonna; The Plaint; passion of Christ; Ochino; spiritual mentor; Virgin Mary; Christ; Good Friday

Chapter.  8622 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literature

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